OVERHEARD AT THE LOCAL WATERING HOLE
GINGER: What are you reading?
BOB: Thoreau. It’s his book about living in the woods.
GINGER: Yeah? People still do that?
BOB: He did. Back in 1845.
GINGER: Well, of course he did. That was before indoor plumbing and refrigeration. We all “lived in the woods.”
BOB: Did you just air quote that?
GINGER: Yes. Yes, I did.
BOB: Have you ever been to the woods?
GINGER: There’s a nice park at the end of the block where I take my dog for a walk.
BOB: No, I mean, like, far enough away from civilization that you can’t hear the sound of the freeway. That you can’t think ‘oh, crap, I forgot to buy milk; well, I’ll just hop in the car and pop on over to the corner market and get a half-gallon.’ That you can actually see the stars?
GINGER: . . . Why?
BOB: Look. Hang on. Let me read you something. ‘The bull-frogs trump to usher in the night, and the note of the whippoorwill is borne on the rippling wind from over the water. Sympathy with the fluttering alder and poplar leaves almost takes my breath; yet, like the lake, my serenity is rippled, but not ruffled.’
GINGER: Did Thoreau write that?
BOB: He did. Right here. Where he talks about solitude.
GINGER: I suppose you get a lot of that in the woods.
BOB: You do.
GINGER: And bears.
BOB: Not as many as you think.
GINGER: I don’t like bears.
BOB: Have you met one?
GINGER: . . . Why?
HORACE: Hey, mister. Pardon me. What are you reading? Oh, Thoreau. Great stuff. Great, great stuff. I’m more partial to his first book, myself, before he went all navel-gazy, but some really groundbreaking American literature there.
BOB: Uh, thanks.
HORACE: Is that a kid’s version? Can I see that? Thanks. Who is the audience for this? Four-year olds? This is terrible. It's like they didn't even read the book. It's like that hideous Easton Press edition. What a mockery! Oh, but there was that Limited Editions Club edition. With the photos. Oh, who did those? HEY JASPER! THIS GUY’S READING A BOOK!
BOB: Uh, look. I’m just trying to have a drink.
JASPER: What’s this? Really? Who reads in a bar? What's he reading?
GINGER: Hey, you two. Not now.
HORACE: He’s reading Walden. And look at this new design!
JASPER: What the [****] is that? Some sort of stick-figure drawing?
HORACE: It must be that new contemporary design. [****] looks like it's made for kindergarteners.
JASPER: What was wrong with the Yale edition? Or the Modern Library Classics edition? This is why publishing is all messed up. No one understands how to sell a book anymore. No one reads a book anymore. It’s all going to he—
HORACE: Oh, yes? Oh, oh. I’m sorry.
GINGER: You should be. This man was reading before you two went all . . . book-psycho on him.
JASPER: Excuse us. We’re . . . we get a little excited when, you know . . .
GINGER: Why don’t you two go back to your table in the corner and I’ll bring another round out soon.
HORACE: Oh, yes. But—
JASPER: Now really, dear. There's no need to talk to us like we're infants.
GINGER: No? Not only was this gentleman reading, but he was reading to me. So, do you mind?
BOB: Those two are an interesting pair.
GINGER: They can be a handful when their mother isn’t around.
BOB: Their mother? Uh, how old is she? Those two look . . .
GINGER: No, no. She’s not their real mother. And they’re not related, as far as I know. They’re just . . . anyway, don’t worry about them. You just have to swat them on the nose and they behave.
BOB: I see.
GINGER: Yeah . . . so, how about it?
BOB: How about what?
GINGER: Are you going to keep reading to me?